ADA and Accessibility to Broadband Services
So, today I first noticed an email from one of our lawyers asking about expertise in the application of accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act to various broadband applications. Obviously, the 20th anniversary of the ADA (which happened in July) brought about a spate of articles and commentaries on this subject. And, at least one of our clients is starting to think about the implications of this for their business.
Well let’s begin here: According to the US Census Bureau the U.S. as of right now population of the U.S is 309,956,552. According to the 2008 American Community Survey just under 5% of the U.S. population over the age of 18 has some hearing difficulty. This percentage increases to 55 for persons over the age of 55, almost 10% for persons over the age of 65 and over 20% for persons over the age of 75. According to the same survey, about 3% of the total U.S. population has vision difficulty. This percentage rises to almost 5% in persons over the age of 65 and to over 10% for persons over the age of 75. Based on these numbers, you might make the crude calculation that approximately 8% of the U.S. population over the age of 18 has some hearing or vision issue. That means almost 25 million people. BTW, it did not bother to try to find out the numbers for other forms of disability such as poor dexterity. That is a lot of people, and it is a growing population.
If you believe Metcalfe’s law, there is an obvious case for spending some money on making broadband accessible to these folks.
One of the bad things about the National Broadband Plan is that, while it makes numerous recommendations for action to “allow Americans with disabilities to experience the benefits of broadband…” based upon fairness and equity, it fails to make the case based on the economics. 25 million and growing is a lot of users. 8% (and growing?) is a goodly percentage.
I could do the math, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that 25 million additional connections (I know that this is not an exact number) will greatly increase the value of the network.
There is no question but that regulation enhancing access is coming but there will not be anything specific in 2010 and, according to our research, the process won’t really begin until the second have of 2011. Your guess is as good as mine as to when the process will result in tangible action, but it will eventually.
This is the kind of regulation that many businesses hate because someone in Washington is making them spend money for no apparent value. But this is not about parking spaces that are underutilized, when you consider the operation of Metcalfe’s law adding many millions of users (25 million?) will add a lot of value.